Asheville-area movie theaters are among the numerous local businesses taking a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Fine Arts Theatre, Grail Moviehouse and Asheville Pizza & Brewing Co.; Pisgah Film House and Co-Ed Cinema in Brevard; and the Flat Rock Cinema in Henderson County have all temporarily closed their establishments. Local chain theaters, including the AMC River Hills 10, Regal Biltmore Grande and Carolina Cinemark Asheville, also ceased operations until further notice and are not charging members of their respective membership/discount programs until they reopen.
But while theaters aren’t serving moviegoers in the traditional sense, leaders like Leah Chang, manager/programmer at the Fine Arts Theatre, are working on creative ways to assist cinephiles during these unusual times.
“The Fine Arts Theatre plans to uphold owner John Cram’s vision of cinema as a service to the community by exploring options to virtually connect with film fans,” Chang says. “Even though we have to maintain social distance physically, we can still find ways to interact meaningfully with each other, perhaps through livestreaming discussions about films or sharing original local content.”
Chang encourages patrons to keep in touch with the Fine Arts on social media and look to its website for updates. Grail Moviehouse owners Davida Horwitz and Steve White are similarly using their theater’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts and its newsletter to digitally interact with their clientele and keep them up to date.
“We’re also exploring ways to engage with customers through video content and possibly live interactive events,” Horwitz and White say. “We may also revive a feature from our original website called the ‘Screening Room,’ which featured short films from local filmmakers. Although none of these are revenue generators, we would love to still connect Grail patrons to different film experiences.”
Horwitz, White and Chang additionally encourage cinephiles to consider purchasing gift cards, and Philip Henry, executive director of Pisgah Film House, is accepting tax-deductible donations for his nonprofit.